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Active Defense – Not just passive protection...

ChrisCalvert ‎11-14-2013 05:16 PM - edited ‎07-07-2015 11:19 AM

In my last post on defensive doctrine, I talked about the importance of knowing yourself. So now, what do you do with this self-knowledge in order to defend your enterprise? If you ask this question in a military context, you would get the answer that a defense should occur in a place of the defender’s choosing in a well-planned engagement area, not in and amongst the defenders—but that’s not the network we live in.


There are a number of well-understood enterprise disciplines that are critical to network defense, and they should all leverage good risk management to ensure you defend what matters. The easiest example of these is vulnerability management for systems, networks and applications. There are many layers of security, including active SIEM monitoring. All of this hardens your enterprise against attack, but is it really "defense?"


No, it’s not defense — it’s protection. Defense is active; protection is passive. Defense happens when the enemy is attacking you; the actions you take to prevent them from breaching your critical business processes. A static defense of a prepared position is what most commonly comes to mind; bristling defensive gear all pointed outward at the bad guys. Unfortunately, this is OLD thinking, as there are very few lines to defend in the modern enterprise. Thus, a mobile defense is a more accurate corollary, and "speed is security" in the mobile defense. 
How fast can you reconfigure your enterprise in response to external attack? If you are anything like most companies you measure enterprise changes in months or years, not minutes.


This is one of the reasons I am a fan of honeypots, they can easily become your engagement area for attackers. Deploy them outside, on the edge and inside your enterprise; make them attractive lines of attack and you can take control of the attack as it happens without impacting the availability of your critical business systems. Honeypots are simple to dynamically deploy and reconfigure, especially in the era of Cloud, and they provide great intelligence on attacker methods and capabilities. The ArcSight rule that alarms with "Honeypot breach in progress" is just the tripwire you need to initiate an active defense.


This is another area that needs work in our industry. We spend all our time "protecting" our assets and information and not enough time planning to defend them. As the Internet becomes more hostile, this will change. Just remember: in the defense, the ability to move fast and pick the ground often defines who wins.


For more information on how HP’s enterprise security products can help you know your enterprise to defend your critical information, visit

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